The Number of Friends You Have Doesn’t Define You

I’ve been thinking about how often we use someone’s popularity to ascribe to them the level of worth we believe they deserve. I very much believe “personal” references requested by employers are an example of this. “Are you ‘normal?’ Do you have friends? Are you likable? Will you fit in? Will you laugh at our jokes?”

As I have gotten older I find it harder to make and maintain friendships. I prioritize similar values much more highly than other traits and characteristics, such as similar hobbies, appearance, or even personality. I also suffer from social and generalized anxiety.

I witness, often with envy and confusion, people for whom I have very little respect who seemingly have lots of people in their lives. It’s important to remind myself their friend count says nothing more about them than that they either have shallow relationships, where others are more acquaintances than friends, or they are simply good manipulators. I call these people “the losers who keep winning,” because the only way they can be close to others is by masking their true selves.

Do you struggle with making or keeping friends and perhaps relate to some of what I’ve written here? I would love to hear others’ thoughts on this topic.

The Congruence of My Values

Does it depress anybody else to think about the fact there is no way to completely stop supporting end-stage capitalism/corporatism? That often your values contradict each other, creating a catch-22 situation? Take floss as an example. I’m picking floss because it’s a basic need that can’t easily be substituted. If I buy it locally and inexpensively, it most likely will be from a big corporation like Walmart, who receives corporate welfare from tax payers and sells cheap and low-quality items made by people working in horrible conditions. If I buy it locally from a small-scale seller, it will most likely be overpriced, and unfortunately, I’m not in the place financially where money isn’t an issue. If I buy it from a small-scale seller online, it might be cheaper, but also leave a much bigger footprint, packaged in cardboard and plastic, shipped to me via dirty fuel sources such as a plane, truck, or train. I could buy a bunch of floss at one time so less packaging is used for shipping, but then I’d be cluttering my home with excess items, belying my desire for clean, minimalistic spaces. So how do I faithfully adhere to fighting corporate greed, not overspending, and being eco-conscious? It feels impossible. I don’t know what the answer is. And now I’m realizing I’m writing this post using a smart phone which was probably made using resources pillaged from developing countries and perhaps even using child labor. And “do my best” just feels hollow. It makes me feel weak, unintelligent, and unresourceful. I end up quickly becoming discouraged and saying, “You know what, screw it. I’ll do what’s easiest.” Does anybody else feel the same way, and how do you find peace with the decisions you make and the ways you order your priorities?

Boundaries

I know I’ve written about boundaries before. I feel it’s such an important topic. Having strong, healthy boundaries is often the difference between staying true to yourself or going “whichever way the wind blows.” There are many different types of boundaries.

Physical boundaries can include who you let in your home or who you let touch you. Time boundaries determine how much time you’re willing to spend on a given activity. We all only have so much time and in order to decide how to spend it, some things must be sacrificed. Emotional boundaries can include not spending time around toxic people or limiting the amount of time you spend around them. It can also include protecting yourself from triggers. Sexual boundaries include determining which sexual activities you engage in, when, where, and with whom. Financial boundaries can include not spending more than a certain amount on eating out monthly, requiring a certain salary before accepting a job, or not loaning money. Material boundaries can include not owning a lot of stuff, minimizing stuff so that it doesn’t create an unnecessary burden or so that your priorities do not become skewed. Intellectual boundaries can include refusal to believe something without evidence or not holding a certain position just because your friends and family do.

I often have trouble with striking a balance and maintaining healthy, not rigid or porous boundaries — speaking up for myself and saying “no” when need be, while allowing wiggle room for exceptions. But I am working on it.

Finding Out Who You Are

Stop trying to “find out who you are.” This expression is overly dramatic, as well as scary, in my opinion. To be disconnected from yourself is a terrifying feeling. In reality, you already have yourself. You do not need to find yourself. You are yourself. Spend time in nature and stay busy doing the things you enjoy, and you will learn more about yourself in the process. This is what I have been doing recently and it’s started to pay off. I feel like I am creating myself little by little, and the puzzle pieces have started falling in place. How are you creating yourself?

Soulmates

I don’t believe in the concept of “soulmates.”I think about how many people have multiple happy marriages and how many people agonize over not finding “the One.” I believe you’re lucky to find someone who aligns with your values and your personality, and who understands how to engage in healthy conflict. The idea of “soulmates” seems metaphysical and borne of religion. You can go your entire life wondering if your partner is “the One” without appreciating them for who they are and how they complement your life. Not feeling as though you’ve met your “soulmate”, you’re bound to feel like a failure. Does anybody else agree or have a different perspective they’d like to share?

Subconscious Influence and Its Role in Desire and Decision-Making

I’ve been thinking about subconscious influence and how it covertly affects the decisions I make. For example, for those of you who wear make-up, do you ever ask yourselves why you wear it? I started wearing make-up as a teenager to hide acne and redness. I continued to wear it regularly throughout my early 20’s. I didn’t necessarily see it as fun or as creative expression. I felt I had to wear it to be socially acceptable. I think a lot of women believe it is their own choice to wear make-up without realizing our choices and preferences are not created in a vacuum. Even if we don’t realize it, we are subconsciously being pushed towards certain values and standards and away from others. It’s just something I try to be aware of. Today, I wear lip color from time to time when I feel like it but no face make-up. I don’t like the feeling I am wearing a mask or covering up my own skin. Make-up has also started to irritate my eyes and skin and I just don’t really have the motivation to try mineral make-up. The older I get, the less I care about such things. When it comes to other issues, whether it be my hair, jewelry, the clothes and shoes I wear, or something else, I try to think critically about why I make the choices o make and if they are internally or externally- motivated. What are your thoughts on this topic?

Choices

Is anybody else ever saddened by the fact that by the choices you make and opportunities you take, you’re by default losing out on other choices and opportunities? That it’s impossible to live in or even visit all the countries that exist, meet people from every cultural group (some countries having a very large number of subcultures), learn all the world’s languages, work all the types of jobs you want to try out, take all the courses you want to take, obtain an in-depth knowledge of all the topics that interest you, have all the experiences you want? To me, this realization is crushing.

What Do You Like About Yourself?

I find it easy to dwell on the things I don’t like about myself. However, when I consider my qualities and the things I believe I do well, I find several positive things to say about myself. For example, I am passionate, I’m a good writer, I love to learn, I’m a critical thinker, I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong, I’m hardworking, I’m loyal, I’m creative, I’m organized, I help others, and I never give up.

What are some traits about yourselves that you admire?

Are Your Goals Your Own?

I’m realizing how easy it is to delude yourself into believing that your goals are your own. Most goals come down to one thing — pleasing others, fitting in, checking off boxes. Do your goals excite you? Are they in line with who you are? Do they honor your interests, strengths, and values? If not, examine them critically to ensure they are not interlopers, others’ goals for you masquerading themselves as your own. I’m currently working on this.

Quick Anxiety-Reducing Tips

I struggle with anxiety and I have learned what helps me during these times. Although different coping techniques work for different people, I decided I would share mine with you in hopes they might help somebody.

Drink water — I feel more clear-headed, positive, and emotionally stable when I am hydrated. On the contrary, I feel foggy-headed and am more vulnerable to negative emotions when I am dehydrated.

Get outside — I feel calmer and uplifted when I spend some time outside, especially if the weather is nice.

Take a hot shower — For me, showers are like being back in the womb. They’re cocooning and allow me both to experience a level of sensory deprivation (everything going on outside the shower stall falls away), while also experiencing some positive and calming sensory input (the roar of the shower in my ears and the pounding water on my body).

Exercise — Moving my body is an almost immediate anxiety lifter. It feels good to be active, to strengthen my body, and to engage in this type of self-care.

Deep breathe — Anxiety leads to shallow breathing, which can lead to more anxiety in what becomes a vicious cycle. Simply concentrating on my breathing and taking deep breaths calms and centers me.

Repeat a mantra — I will sometimes self-soothe by repeating a mantra such as “Everything will be okay” or “It’s not that serious”. Sometimes vocally contradicting the anxiety results in it dissipating.

Start cleaning/straightening — A clean, uncluttered environment has always made me feel more in control of myself. On the contrary, a messy, chaotic environment contributes to my bouts of anxiety.

Think grateful thoughts — Considering what I’m grateful for always calms me and helps put my worries and concerns in context. The situation is almost never as dire as I make it out to be.

Talk to somebody — Being alone can aid the anxiety in continuing. Sometimes just talking with a friendly person can cause the cycle of negative thoughts and emotions to end.

What are some ways you successfully battle anxiety?